Sister Mary Christopher Esler, CSA

Sister Mary Christopher Esler, CSA, baptized Carol Gertrude Esler, died peacefully on January 31, 2021, at Nazareth Center, Fond du Lac, WI.

Carol Gertrude was born on February 14, 1927, in Kaukauna, WI, the third child of Nicholas Esler and Alfa Deno Esler. Her loving family nurtured Carol’s faith, generosity, and what she called her “love affair with Life.”

Carol experienced a call to serve early in life.  In sixth grade, she dreamed of being a nurse; as a Kaukauna High School student, she took classes required for the nursing field; and after graduation, she enrolled as a Cadet Nurse in St. Agnes School of Nursing, Fond du Lac, WI, and became a registered nurse in 1948. 

Throughout her years of preparation for a nursing career, Carol often put aside the thought of entering religious life.  Toward the end of nursing education, she again considered the call to religious life and entered St. Agnes Convent in 1948.  Known by the religious name Sister Mary Christopher, she made her first profession of vows in the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes on August 15, 1951.

Sister Mary Christopher ministered in healthcare throughout her life.  She received her BS in Nursing from Marian College in 1951, then worked as a staff nurse at St. Agnes Hospital, Fond du Lac. In 1953, St. Agnes Hospital planned to open an Occupational Therapy Department. Sister Mary Christopher was selected to head the program. From 1954-1957, she attended the College of St. Catherine, St. Paul, MN. Following her certification as a Registered Occupational Therapist, Sister organized, initiated, and experienced the expansion of the OT Department at St. Agnes Hospital.  She also assisted during this time as a nurse therapist, and in rehab, for the elder Sisters of St Agnes at Nazareth Heights Infirmary. Sister served in Pastoral Care at St. Clare Hospital, Monroe, WI from 1979-1980 before returning to Fond du Lac for hospice training. She was a home visit nurse with Hospice Hope for five years. In 1985, Sister Mary Christopher again provided therapeutic services, foot care, and transportation for the sisters at Nazareth Heights and later at Nazareth Court and Center until 2008.  After her life in full-time ministry, Sister Mary Christopher continued to offer foot care for the sisters at St. Agnes Convent.  In 2019, Sister Mary Christopher became a resident at Nazareth Court and Center.  There she often spent her days crocheting baby caps for the newborns at St. Agnes Hospital.  Her healing touch will be remembered by many.

Sister Mary Christopher had a contemplative spirit which she expressed through her poetry and storytelling.  She enjoyed biking and being in nature, was an avid bird watcher and lover of wildflowers, and was committed to the care of Earth even advocating that the land near the former Nazareth Heights become a Nature Preserve for the people of Fond du Lac County. She found great spiritual solace through her participation with the Bread of Life Charismatic Prayer Group.

Sister Mary Christopher was preceded in death by her parents, Nicholas and Alfa Esler, her brother, George, and her sister, Vera Juckem.

She is survived with great fondness by her nine nieces, one nephew, their families, and by the Sisters of St. Agnes, with whom she lived, prayed, and ministered.

 A burial service for Sister Mary Christopher was held on February 3, 2021, at St. Joseph Springs Cemetery, Fond du Lac, WI.  A private Memorial Mass for Sister Mary Christopher will be celebrated on February 18, 2021, at Nazareth Center Chapel with Father Ken Smits, Capuchin, presiding.

Memorials may be directed to the CSA Mission Advancement Office, 320 County Road K, Fond du Lac, WI 54937.

The Sisters of St. Agnes are grateful to the nurses and staff of Nazareth Court and Center for their care of Sister Mary Christopher in her last years of life.

Zacherl Funeral Home is serving the Congregation of Sisters of St. Agnes.